Unfortunately, drug use in the workplace is far from an uncommon problem. Numerous people regularly use substances during their work day and are still able to perform their duties well enough to get by. These individuals are often known as “functioning addicts.” Of course, as addiction continues, the worse it will get and the more obvious it will become. Let’s take a closer look.

What are the Most Common Drugs Used at Work?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “approximately 70% of all adults with an alcohol or illicit drug use disorder are employed. Nearly 9% of all employed adults […] have current alcohol or illicit drug use disorders, while a relatively equal number […] report that they are in recovery or have recovered from a substance use problem.”

Virtually every substance can become a problem in the workplace. However, let’s take a look at the five most common drugs used in the workplace. 


Alcohol is probably the largest substance problem in many workplaces. This could potentially be attributed to its legality and a cultural acceptance of drinking. According to a study in 2006, workplace alcohol use and impairment directly affect an estimated 15% of the U.S. workforce.

It can be quite easy for a person to hide their alcohol use during the workday by doing it before their shift or pouring it into their coffee. However, it will eventually lead to issues within the workplace in some way.


As is probably obvious, marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs in the workplace. The heavy use of marijuana may be attributed to similar circumstances as alcohol, as it is becoming legal in many states and is more socially accepted than other substances.


Cocaine is the most commonly used illegal substance used within the workplace. This stimulant gives people a sense of euphoria, energy, pleasure, and a feeling of increased alertness and attention. However, it can also have a wide range of negative effects, including irritability, seizures, and cardiovascular issues. 

Prescription Painkillers

Many people may be prescribed painkillers for various conditions, but these can become problematic. If someone begins to take extra doses to accommodate their pain, it can potentially develop into an addiction. Abusing painkillers can have horrible physical and behavioral effects, including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Breathing issues
  • Heart problems
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fluctuating energy
  • And more. 

Prescription Benzodiazepines

Prescription benzodiazepines are also known as tranquilizers, and they include substances like Valium and Xanax. Many people are prescribed these types of medications for anxiety disorders, insomnia, muscle relaxation, and other conditions. Unfortunately, they have the same downfall as painkillers, in that prescription use can also turn into abuse. 

These substances can have serious side effects when abused, such as:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Slurred speech
  • And more

Accurate Drug Testing for Employees

If you are an employer with concerns about drug use in the workplace, drug testing can be a good first step. This will help to discover any employees with active use at the time of the test to either remove them from the force or allow them to seek help. 

Our goal here at Soteria Screening Laboratories is to help you create and maintain a drug-free workplace through accurate and reliable testing. We have many tests available, depending on how extensive you would like to be in testing. If you have any questions, you can reach us by email at info@soteriascreening.com or by phone at 202-679-6670. We look forward to hearing from you!

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